November 14, 2014

Students Push for Review of Greek Quarter System

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Students on campus are continuing to call for the examination of the quarter system, a set of controversial changes made to the Greek system in 2011 controlling formal contact between freshmen and chapters.

Citing concerns over the limited contact between freshmen and those involve in Greek life, as well as the perceived pushing of drinking “behind closed doors,” Cornellians pushing for change saw a victory Thursday when the Student Assembly unanimously called for the investigation of the system.

Sponsored by Blake Brown ’17, S.A. undesignated-at large representative, and William Bitsky ’16, S.A. College of Arts and Sciences representative, the resolution seeks to examine all consequences of the quarter system, which separates the recruitment timeline into four quarters and places restrictions on freshman contact with fraternities and sororities.

The system divides the academic year into four quarters: In the first quarter, chapter-wide contact between the freshmen and greek chapters is limited to programmings events hosted by the chapters and by the IFC. The second quarter allows for informal recruitment of freshmen by fraternities and sororities but without alcohol.

The third quarter, which begins at the start of the spring semester, consists of formal recruitment and pledging. Alcohol remains prohibited at all events throughout the third quarter. Freshmen who complete the pledging process become full members of the fraternities and sororities in the fourth quarter.

Dean of Students Kent Hubbell said he thinks an evaluation of the quarter system would be appropriate particularly if the discussion involved all undergraduates.

“I believe that a review of the four quarter system is timely, especially if it results in a thorough discussion that includes broad participation by undergraduates, both Greek and non-Greek,” Hubbell said.

‘Behind Closed Doors’

A “large portion of social activity has moved both behind closed doors and off campus entirely” to places such as Collegetown, according to the Cameron Pritchett ’15, president of the Interfraternity Council. These environments, according to Pritchett, tend to be of a higher risk because “event management guidelines are not necessarily followed.”

“When events take place on campus, in fraternity houses, bodies such as the IFC can regulate to ensure sober monitors are in place, no hard alcohol is present. The same is not possible off campus events,” Pritchett said.

Steven Henick ’15, former president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and current president of the Order of Omega, said he believes it is “very important” for venues to be provided to curtail unsupervised drinking.

“I think the most important thing is that Greeks provide a safe and secure environment for all freshmen,” he said. “It is very important that Greeks do not give off the Animal House impression.”

Panhellenic Council President Erika Whitestone ’15 added that the quarter system makes it difficult for freshmen to learn about fraternities and sororities. Additionally, she said parties in Collegetown can be “extremely unsafe since no event management guidelines are followed.”

“It is important for freshman to experience Cornell and have time to decide if Greek life is for them, which is why we have deferred recruitment. But the quarter system isolates the Greek System,” Whitestone said.

All chapter-wide contact with freshmen was previously prohibited, but earlier this semester, fraternities and sororities were permitted to host late night programming events for freshmen, including the IFC-hosted “Go Greek!” dodgeball tournament.

According to Pritchett, the high turnout at the event shows enthusiasm from freshmen to participate in Greek life at an earlier time than the quarter system allows.

“Hundreds of freshmen and fraternity members attended,” Pritchett said. “This demonstrates a desire from freshmen to have more engagement with the Greek system earlier in the school year.”

Ben Bacharach ’18, a freshman-at-large representative for the S.A., said he expressed a concern for the safety of the freshmen.

“I feel that an investigation of the quarter system is very important because it is vital for freshman to have the opportunity to meet upperclassmen in the safest way possible,” Bacharach said.

Pritchett echoed the emphasis that the quarter system affects the community as a whole and not just the Greek community.

“The quarter system’s impact is not felt exclusively by the Greek community,” Pritchett said. “Any unintended consequences of the policy are felt by the entire student body, with a special focus on freshmen.”